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Mortgage broker admits to fraud

| Wednesday, April 21, 2004

A Westmoreland County mortgage broker admitted in federal court Tuesday that he bilked banks and other lenders of nearly $1 million by obtaining fraudulent loans.

Todd Breninghouse, 38, of Cleveland Drive, Lower Burrell, pleaded guilty to mail fraud before U.S. District Judge Gary Lancaster, waiving his right to have the charges presented to a grand jury.

Breninghouse, who ran a home-based mortgage brokerage business called Platinum Financial Services, applied for eight mortgages in 2002, including two for himself and his wife totaling $250,000. The fraudulently obtained loans, from National City Bank and two private lenders, totaled $987,467.

Breninghouse advertised in newspapers seeking people who needed mortgages but had bad credit, said

Assistant U.S. Attorney Dennis P. Kissane.

Breninghouse employed so-called straw borrowers; one man received $5,000 for playing a part in the transaction, the prosecutor said.

The mortgages, ranging from $42,260 to $280,000, were obtained by submitting false employment records, fake pay stubs, altered W-2 forms, phony property ownership information and bogus real estate appraisals, the complaint charged.

Breninghouse deceived the lenders about the true nature of the loans and the credit-worthiness of the borrowers, Kissane said.

Breninghouse faces up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine when he is sentenced July 9.

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